From the elaborate, powdered wigs of the 18th-century to the aggressively teased hair of the 1980s, hair fashions have changed dramatically over time. But in the midst of ever-changing styling trends, one element remains constant – a woman’s hair is, and will always be, her crowning glory.
So it comes as no surprise that when a woman experiences hair loss, it has deep psychological effects on her. Women, accustomed to spending a noticeable amount of time and money on their appearance, react more negatively to hair loss than men, with feelings ranging from loss of self-esteem to more severe responses such as depression.
As luck would have it, serendipity has once again played its gracious hand in our quest for health, vigor and beauty. Drawing parallels to other fortuitous breakthroughs in medicine (remember Penicillin, Viagra and Botox?), researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have accidentally stumbled upon a compound that may reverse and even prevent hair loss.
Ironically, the researchers had set out to find a compound that reduced gut stress, not the next billion dollar hair loss cure. The study was originally conducted to test the effectiveness of a peptide, astressin-B in alleviating stress in mice, specifically its impact on their gastrointestinal functions.
The mice were genetically engineered to produce elevated amounts of corticotrophin (CRF), a stress hormone that caused their fur to fall off as they aged. After three months of being given several treatments of astressin-B, the researchers were surprised to find that not only did the mice become de-stressed, they started growing back thick, luscious fur!
Subsequent trials showed that mice injected with only one series of astressin-B treatment retained their hair growth. In an even more astonishing phase of the study, young mice treated with astressin-B never showed signs of hair loss. So not only did Astressin-B stimulate hair growth in mice, it also seemed to prevent hair loss. This is a huge breakthrough, as the current drug-of-choice for hair loss, minoxidal topical, also known as Rogaine, requires constant application and only slows, and does not prevent, baldness.
There is another amazing finding – when the trials were repeated, the researchers noted that it also spurred the pigmentation in the mice’s fur. Researchers are now looking into astressin-B’s promise for eliminating the need to dye gray hair.
Apart from the genetic differences between humans and mice, it is unclear whether astressin-B could selectively affect scalp hair and not the entire body’s hair growth. And even though astressin-B treated stress-related hair loss, it might not cure genetic hair loss.
It is important to remember that astressin-B is merely a potential treatment. If proven safe and effective, it might be years before this treatment hits the pharmacies after taking into account the number of clinical trials and FDA review needed to bring a new drug to the market.
Until then, the safest bet for women with thinning hair is to work around their condition. Non-invasive styling tricks, such as curling and hair extensions, can increase volume and hide problem spots. A chin length (or shorter) cut can also draw attention away from less than abundant locks and emphasize the face instead.
Still, the potential that exists in astressin-B to regrow hair and prevent hair loss is a medical breakthrough that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. Heads up!
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